10 August 2014

My Army Weight Loss Secret

The following originally appeared on the site, "Suite 101" in 2008.

The United States Army has taught me quite a bit about losing weight and staying fit. At Basic Combat Training, six things led to serious weight loss.

Before I turned my body over to Uncle Sam, I weighed just this side of 200 pounds. I was officially overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which uses a Body Mass Index (BMI) to gauge weight category. 

Without getting into the specifics of how BMI is calculated, and why it is an effective tool for measuring healthy weight levels, I had too much body fat for my height. According to the CDC scale, a healthy weight level is between 18 and 25 BMI. I was out of bounds.

Six months later I was more than 20 pounds trimmer, at a satisfactory 22 BMI, and feeling great. What was my secret? I joined the Army. Now I certainly don’t expect anybody to join the Army simply to lose weight. There are, however, several things one can do to mimic the fitness and weight loss routine that the Army Basic Training provided for me.

Exercise in the morning
The cornerstone of the BCT fitness program is morning exercises. Six days a week I was on the Physical Training field for Army “PT.” It wasn’t difficult, simple calisthenics and a three-mile run on Wednesdays.

The main advantage of our exercise routine for me was its timing. Jeanie Lerche Davis of WebMD writes, in “Lose Weight With Morning Exercise,” that morning exercise helps the body develop a better routine, which affects sleep patterns and the body’s ability to lose weight. Even if you don’t do a full workout every day, regular morning exercise is a key component of an effective weight loss program.

Maintain sleep patterns
Regular sleep has also been linked to weight loss. At BCT, we were in the rack at 9:00 every night, and up by 4:00 am. While on the minimal side of the seven to eight hours suggested by most experts, the regularity made up for the dearth. My body knew when it was supposed to be working, and it got going at the same time every day. 4:00 am is too early for me as a civilian, but the routine is the important part. Under sleeping and oversleeping could hinder your weight loss.

Keep meals regular and proportioned
At BCT we ate three squares a day. The meals came at regular times, and were balanced and healthy. My biggest meal was breakfast, and I ate as much as I could, following the advice of a professional trainer I had met before shipping to Basic: “eat like a king for breakfast, like a prince for lunch, and like a peasant for dinner.” The first meal sustained me through the hardest part of my work day, and lunch maintained my energy level. Dinner was just enough to keep me from going hungry, and without a full stomach my body slept better without having to metabolize much until the next morning.

Get full in the morning
A smoothie, a bowl of cereal, and some toast should do the trick. If you’re on the  go, a couple of bananas and a breakfast sandwich with plenty of milk or juice could fill you up. It’s hard to do, but your body will thank you for it, and you’ll have more energy, be more productive throughout the day, and eat a lot less for your other meals.

Stay active throughout the day
Another important aspect of my Army experience was our constant activity. We were ever on the go: walking, carrying, marching, and cleaning. The bottom line is that we stayed busy. My body was always burning calories.

This is an easy thing for anyone to do. You don’t have to put yourself through a grueling workout. Do some yard work, clean the garage, straighten up the house, walk around the block. Just get off the couch or away from the computer a little more than usual.

Drink lots of water
If there is one thing I heard more than anything thing else, it was, “Drink water!” Our BCT leaders understood the importance of proper hydration for good health. Not only did adequate—on the generous side—water kept me from feeling hungry, it helped my body’s metabolism work smoothly.

Studies have shown that those who drink more water tend to lose more weight. Just about anybody can apply these five principles to a moderate weight loss plan. Do it the Army way and lose weight now!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the good reminders here, Rick. I need to start following more of these. You should think about writing your next book: the Army Afghan Weight Loss Program.